Everyday Framing

On the Home Front
At a small and quiet Thanksgiving reunion, family members discuss the rules of Secret Santa and we wait while we vote on how much we should spend. There is laughter. Jolly. Some argue that the purpose after all is not the gift, but the gesture and “don’t we all have very little money to speak of?” Others think that since this is the first year that we are experimenting with a one gift option we should agree on an amount that would afford a gift of significance. Why not buy something nice? Don’t be cheap, someone hissed. Last year, I recall, my husband and I used gift money to shop for gifts (yes, folks, that is possible) and others settled on home baked cookies. Are we really trying to save or are we asking ourselves what is the true purpose of giving at Christmas?

Meanwhile, I can’t remember the last time I received so many Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. Frenzied shoppers who had been waiting since five in the morning to shop at a local Walmart, trampled over and killed a worker on Long Island. Students at schools are hungry and without health care. I, for one, can’t figure out how I will pay for my son’s dentist visit on Saturday. I seem to remember growing up with different priorities. My children want a big day out at Burger King. I decide whether or not I should forgo a new toothbrush for another week. Did someone tell me I might not get paid this week? Thanksgiving is to give thanks. My daughter comes home from school wearing a stapled paper bonnet reminiscent of the pilgrims. She tells me that the pilgrims and the Indians shared food and that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving. I look at my husband and he hears my silent thoughts. When shall we tell her about the genocide of the Native American Indians? When will it be appropriate to tell her about how our country treated these human beings after sharing? I do believe, though, that it is right to give thanks. I wonder if I will ever be able to celebrate anything these days without feeling phony. I wonder if I am doing the right thing for my children by guarding them from the real state of things. Every time my son is exposed to the “real world,” he says, that’s sad. Then he finds release by creating a virtual reality called Sims. The other day, though, he announces that his virtual family lost their children to a social worker because they weren’t sent to school. He asks: Mommy, is that true that a social worker can come and take your children away? Even in virtual reality there are rules. Shame. If I were a parent living in the South Bronx, I wouldn’t necessarily send my kids to the neighborhood school. When is it appropriate to explain to my son the concept of zoning?

On the World Front
While Britain tries to entice their shoppers to shop by instituting a consumers tax cut, 400 are dead in Nigeria due to sectarian rioting. Apparently, the ethnic and racial tensions between the Muslims and the Christians have reached the level of bleeding. The Taj Mahal hotel in India is the target of a Mumbai massacre. The Taj Mahal, like the World Trade Center symbolizes wealth to me. No one is really sure who is really behind these terrorist acts. Roy in War Talk describes displacement, dispossession, starvation, poverty, disease, fascism and genocide. Which one of these is behind this attack? Rigged elections, daily humiliations, disappearances, jihadist militants, and foreign mercenaries. India is a Hindu country and Muslims can be murdered under the benign gaze of the state. Death toll is somewhere close to 300 today. The airport occupation in Thailand is on day 6. Again, not too sure how to figure this either. The protests are supposedly being led by PAD (Peoples Alliance for Democracy), which is led by media Tycoon, Sondhi Limthongkul. Is this a vehicle for the middle and upper class or is this democracy? Is democracy of and for the people anymore? Is this really about universal health care and human rights? Whose government is who? Coup.

“The news in the papers is always the same – some people’s house petrol-bombed, youths and activists arrested, suspected informer necklaced, police shootings—it only varies from place to place. It’s been like this for… I don’t know how long. It’s really depressing. Today I did not even have to buy a paper, things just kept happening since late this morning.”

–(Gcina Mhlope, It’s Quiet Now, Somehow Tenderness Survives: Stories from Southern Africa)

Today is Sunday, a gray day. My children wait. We are going out, take a drive, change the scenery a bit. My son and daughter are beautiful. I tell them so. My five year old daughter wants to know why she is beautiful. I explain that she is beautiful because her spirit is strong and her energy is warm and inviting. She giggles and says, “No, Mom! I mean, why am I beautiful?” My ten-year-old son explains what she means – he uses his big brother tone. “Physically, Mom, physically!” Yeah, I nod at him smiling, appreciating his sense of authority. Well, you know, sweetie pie, I say, when you’re old and gray and you are wrinkled like a raisin and your back is curled over like a crooked branch, you will be beautiful. And if you ever get sick, like Titi Carmen did, and you loose a lot of weight and your face turns yellowish green and you can’t get out of bed because your feet are too swollen, you will be beautiful. Because, why? Because your spirit will be strong and your energy will be warm and inviting.” I say these words and I am an activist, I believe.

On most days I am horrified and appalled at the state of things and sometimes scared as hell that I won’t be able to stay afloat. Every day my bank card is accepted, I experience a sigh of relief. It is there, a miracle breaths. Or, when I bend down low and speak to the Gods about small things, well, I can’t help feel a deep and sincere sense of gratitude. And then, just like that, I am reminded why we all continue to show up at the Broadway play called “Thanksgiving.”